Mulholland, William

Mulholland, William,

1855–1935, American engineer, b. Belfast, Ireland. He arrived in Los Angeles in 1877, becoming a laborer for the local water company. Despite his lack of formal training, he eventually became head of the city's water department. Mulholland supervised the building (1908–15) of a 233-mile (375-km) aqueduct from the Owens River in the Sierra Nevada to the city, supposedly to supply the city's growing needs. Subterfuge was used to acquire the water rights, allowing the city to block Owens Valley irrigation project, and much of the water went not to Los Angeles but the San Fernando Valley, where speculators had acquired land in anticipation. The aqueduct also sparked the "Owens Valley war," in which farmers angered over the loss of irrigation water dynamited sections of the aqueduct in the 1920s. Mulholland resigned in 1928 after the collapse of the city's St. Francis Dam in the Santa Clara Valley, which killed hundreds and flooded some 140 sq mi (360 sq km).


See biography by C. Mulholland (2002); study by L. Standiford (2015).

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Mulholland, William

(1855–1935) civil engineer; born in Belfast, Ireland. He came to the U.S.A. about 1872 and settled in California in 1877. Between 1886 and 1928 he designed and built the water system that supplies Los Angeles, including the 500-mile long aqueduct from the Sierra Nevada to Los Angeles (1913–19) and a series of 27 earth dams for storage. He retired in 1928.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
25, 1992 ("The Night ..."); Margaret Leslie Davis, Rivers in the Desert: William Mulholland and the Inventing of Los Angeles (New York: Harper Collins, 1993), 264 ("exoneration"); Ruth Pittman, Roadside History of California (Missoula, MT: Mountain West Publishing Co., 1995), 233 ("geological knowledge ..."); Kim Weir, Southern California Handbook (Chico, CA: Moon Publications, 1998), 230 ("The general condemnation of ..."); Catherine Mulholland, William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles (Berkeley: University Press of California, 2000), 382, note 4 ("masterly"; "apparent vindication ...").
Lippincott, "William Mulholland--Engineer, Pioneer, Raconteur," Civil Engineering 2 (Feb.-March 1940: 106: Catherine Mulholland, William Mulholland, 28; Harvey A.
(55) Mulholland's association with Boulder Dam is noted in Mulholland, William Mulholland, 279-284, 305,316-317.
(61) Los Angeles County Coroner's Inquest, 16 ("We overlooked ..."); 23 ("I have a suspicion ..."); 25 ("Vulnerable against ..."); 376-377 ("I have a very strong opinion ..."), 377 ("tell us"); Catherine Mulholland, William Mulholland, 328 ("In accepting ...").